Patriots host Jeeps in girls basketball season opener

Herald file photo


LINCOLN CITY — Heritage Hills girls return to the hardwood tonight with some All-Pocket Athletic Conference selections coming back from a year ago.

Junior Rebekah Gordon and sophomore Hadley Lytton made the PAC all-conference team during the 2018-19 season, while junior Avery Neff earned a honorable mention.

The fact that those three are returning and that they’ll all be back after this year leaves ninth-year coach Kim Brown excited.

“I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world right now,” Brown said. “There’s not many coaches in southern Indiana that can say that not only do you have three prominent starters who have started from freshman year on, but I have a possibility of having a lineup of five girls who all play year-round.”

Gordon, Neff, Lytton, juniors Nevah Barnett and Kylee Appman and sophomore Madison Begle have all played travel basketball, and all of them are expected to play a role for the Patriots this season.

Heritage Hills lost a couple of players to graduation last year in Morgan Vaal and Claire Heckel. Brown said Appman, sophomore center Grace Mangan and junior guard Ella Schnieders will have increased roles for the Patriots. She added that junior Nevah Barnett got some varsity minutes as a sophomore, but she’ll see more time on the floor following the graduations of Vaal and Heckel.

Brown praised the athleticism that those players have. She said Appman is strong and fast, Schnieders is a quick and smart guard, while Mangan brings size and strength for the team’s front court.

Gordon led the area last year with an average of 16.5 points per game. Brown is hoping her junior forward will bring that and more this season. She hopes Gordon will have more of an outside game this year than she has in the past, as the Patriots will look to use her on the perimeter. Brown said Gordon could play anywhere, and Heritage Hills could use Barnett, Mangan or Appman to take the pressure off if Gordon is doubled on the inside.

Lytton and Neff have established themselves as outside presences for the Patriots. Lytton led the Patriots with 28 three-pointers during her freshman year with an average of 9.6 points per game. Neff notched 20 shots from behind the arc, and averaged 6.3 points per game. Brown said Neff had a great summer with her travel team, and is more confident going into this year. She called Neff a floor leader, but wants her to be more aggressive and look for her own points as a junior. Brown praised Lytton as “an outstanding ball handler who is very smart.”

“If a defender takes something away from her one trip down the floor, she will exploit it the next time,” she said of Lytton. “She learns from previous plays, and she can break down a defense and make her teammates look better because of what she has learned from the other team.”

Brown said the Patriots focus primarily on the man-to-man defense as they long as they aren’t getting into foul trouble on their aggressiveness. She added they’ll apply a full-court man if they need to make something happen, but will use the half court variety if they’re giving good pressure and their legs need a break. Brown said Heritage Hills will run a continuous motion offense with a lot of movement and taking a lot of shots.

Heritage Hills opens its season at 8 p.m. ET today at home against Northeast Dubois. The Patriots have beaten the Jeeps in each of the past three seasons, and ran away with a 46-15 victory on Nov. 2, 2018. The Jeeps return everybody from last season, and Brown said Northeast Dubois showed a lot of improvement from last year’s meeting when the two teams played in the summer.

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” Brown said.

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